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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Redding: The accidental bass star
Noel Redding (left) with Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell
Noel Redding (left) with Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell

As the bass player with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding helped to transform the sound of rock music during the late 1960s.

The audience that assembled at London's Bag O'Nails club one night in 1966, including musical avatars like the Beatles, the Who and Donovan, had never seen - or heard - anything like the guitar, bass and drums of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

In what is now regarded as one of the most important breakthrough performances of all time, Hendrix beguiled, dazzled - and occasionally frightened - his eminent listeners.

Indeed, the feedback and volume produced by the virtuoso guitarist and his colleagues caused a number of people to flee the building.

A new star - and a new sound - had been born.

But the Jimi Hendrix Experience was not just its exotic-looking front-man, however brilliant he was.

Behind him, and completing the package, were drummer Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, the band's bass guitarist, still only 20 years old.

Jimi Hendrix
The mercurial Hendrix re-defined rock guitar

Noel - actually christened David - Redding was born, aptly, on Christmas Day 1945, in Folkestone in southern England.

A youthful interest in music developed into a career and Redding soon found himself playing guitar in a number of obscure bands on the German rock 'n' roll circuit.

When one of these groups released a record that sold a total of 682 copies, Redding packed up and went back to live with his mother.

The story might have ended there, had it not been for an advert in music paper Melody Maker for a new guitarist to join the already-established group, the Animals.

On the road with Hendrix

Redding travelled to London, where he met and auditioned for the Animals' lead singer, Eric Burdon.

Waiting for the result of his audition, Redding bumped into the Animals' bass guitarist Chas Chandler, who asked Redding if he played bass too.

With nothing to lose, Redding said he did and Chandler introduced him to Jimi Hendrix, who had just arrived in Britain.

Once drummer Mitch Mitchell was on board, the line-up was complete and the band, managed by Chandler, hit the road.

After a number of encouraging live shows in Munich and England, the Experience played its legendary gig at the Bag O'Nails club.

We were constantly skint.
Noel Redding on his time with Hendrix

Armed with critical acclaim, media attention and a number of huge advances from record companies, the group scored their first hit single, Hey Joe.

Loud yet delicate, bluesy yet tinged with the sounds of jazz, heavy rock and a frenzy of drug-inspired feedback, the Jimi Hendrix Experience ushered in a new era of rock music and provided the inspiration for a new generation of stars.

Transatlantic success

Even so, Redding and his bandmates found the rock star life not all it was cracked up to be.

"Most of our days were spent in brain- and body-numbing travel, covering every corner of England and much of the middle, packed in the van with the gear," he later wrote.

"We were constantly skint."

The band, though, went from strength to strength.

A second single, Purple Haze, also topped the charts before the appearance of the platinum-selling album, Are You Experienced, in 1967.

The album, still cited by many as one of the greatest of all time, featured the lascivious Foxy Lady plus a wistful ballad, The Wind Cries Mary and a howling version of the blues standard, Red House.

The McCartneys
Redding remained friends with Paul and Linda McCartney

That year also saw the band take the United States by storm after a thrilling performance - guitar-burning included - at the Monterey pop festival.

Rather than just sidemen, Redding and Mitchell were musically adept foils to the mercurial Hendrix. The band's live appearances, as well as albums like Electric Ladyland and Axis:Bold As Love, attest to that.

However, rumours abound that Hendrix overdubbed some of Redding's bass lines.

The group, like Hendrix himself, burned bright but briefly.

1968 saw them break up amid rows over money and billing, fuelled by heavy drinking and the universal presence of hard drugs.

Two years later, Hendrix was dead.

Redding, disaffected, slipped into obscurity in bands like Fat Mattress and went to live in the west of Ireland, where his close neighbours included Donovan and Roy Harper.

He remained close friends with many superstars, though, notably Paul and Linda McCartney, who photographed the band in their early days.

Hendrix bassist dies
13 May 03  |  Entertainment
Noel Redding: Your tributes
13 May 03  |  Have Your Say
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13 May 03  |  Entertainment
Row over Hendrix royalties
28 Feb 03  |  Entertainment


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